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Light echoes reveal supermassive black holes eating stars

17 September 2016 Astronomy Now

When a star passes within a certain distance of a black hole, the stellar material gets stretched and compressed as the black hole swallows it, briefly releasing an enormous amount of energy as a flare. Astronomers have now observed infrared light echoes from these “stellar tidal disruption” events reflected by dust encircling a black hole.

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‘Frankenstein’ galaxy UGC 1382 surprises astronomers

13 July 2016 Astronomy Now

About 250 million light-years away, there’s a neighbourhood of our universe that astronomers had considered quiet and unremarkable. But now, scientists have uncovered an enormous, bizarre galaxy possibly formed from the parts of other galaxies. Some 718,000 light-years across, UGC 1382 is more than seven times wider than the Milky Way.

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Citizen scientists discover huge Matorny-Terentev galaxy cluster

14 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Two volunteer participants in an international citizen science project, T. Matorney and I. A. Terentev, have had a rare galaxy cluster that they found named after them. The pair pieced together the huge C-shaped structure of RGZ-CL J0823.2+0333 from much smaller images of cosmic radio waves shown to them as part of the web-based program Radio Galaxy Zoo.

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The secret life of the Orion Nebula

16 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Space bears witness to a constant stream of star births. Whole star clusters are often formed at the same time — and within a comparatively short period. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg have proposed a new mechanism that relies on the interplay between magnetic fields and gravitation to explain this quick formation, investigating a filament of gas and dust which also includes the well-known Orion Nebula.

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Lone planetary-mass object found in a young star family

20 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have found a free-floating object called WISEA 1147, thought to be an exceptionally low-mass “brown dwarf,” which is a star that lacked enough mass to burn nuclear fuel and glow like a star. Reasearchers using data from NASA’s WISE and 2MASS sky surveys found the object in TW Hydrae — a young, 10-million-year-old association of stars.

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Runaway stars leave infrared waves in space

6 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers are finding dozens of massive, so-called ‘runaway stars’ in our galaxy with the help of images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. When these speedy, massive stars plow through space, they can cause material to stack up in front of them, creating dramatic arc-shaped features called bow shocks.

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Tracking a mysterious group of asteroid outcasts

4 August 2015 Astronomy Now

High above the plane of our solar system, near the asteroid-rich abyss between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, scientists have found a unique family of space rocks. These interplanetary oddballs are the Euphrosyne (pronounced ew-FROZ-i-nee) asteroids, and by any measure they have been distant, dark and mysterious — until now.

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Charting the Milky Way from the inside out

7 June 2015 Astronomy Now

The Sun’s location within the Milky Way’s dust-obscured disc is a complicating factor when trying to determine the Galaxy’s four-arm spiral structure, but researchers are obtaining a clearer picture by mapping embedded star clusters using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).

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WISE discovery of the most luminous galaxy in the universe

22 May 2015 Astronomy Now

A remote galaxy shining with the light of more than 300 trillion suns has been discovered using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). It is the most luminous galaxy found to date and belongs to a new class of objects — extremely luminous infrared galaxies, or ELIRGs.